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2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Darrell Henderson, Memphis

2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Davis Mattek February 22, 2019 11:15AM EDT

Darrell Henderson NFL Draft Prospect Profile

Despite having what is some of the most outstanding college running back production we have ever seen, Darrell Henderson is not the consensus top running back prospect. Rotoviz’s Scouting Index has him as the 4th ranked running back in this class amongst draft rankers, which really does not line up with his production.

Henderson was not a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, as he received no offers from any Power Five conference schools. He ended up at Memphis and was the third-string running back in his true freshman season. He posted 87 carries and more importantly, 20 receptions in his first season at Memphis with 719 yards from scrimmage and 8 touchdowns. That is a pretty encouraging stat line for a true freshman running back and as we know, running backs who catch passes well are just so much more valuable in the NFL than running backs who don’t.

The next two seasons are when Darrell Henderson really made a name for himself at Memphis and in the NFL scouting community. As a 20-year old sophomore, Henderson split the Memphis backfield with Patrick Taylor Jr. and averaged an outstanding 8.9 yards per carry on 130 attempts while also hauling in 24 receptions for 226 yards and scoring a total of 11 touchdowns. Despite being the 1B to Taylor’s 1A, Henderson averaged more yards per carry and per attempt which is a trait that we like to see in prospects. If a player is able to be more productive than their counterparts on the same team, it is an indicator of talent that is able to rise above circumstance.

Obviously, a player who averages 8.9 yards per carry is due for some regression, right? You would think so, but Henderson came back in his junior season in 2018 and again averaged 8.9 yards per carry. In fact, Darrell Henderson is the all-time NCAA football leader in career yards per carry (with a minimum of 300 rushing attempts). Henderson’s final season at Memphis was something to behold. He ran 214 times for 1,909 yards and caught 19 passes for 295 yards while scoring a total of 25 touchdowns. His 25 total touchdowns were 2nd amongst all NCAA FBS players and his 2,204 yards was second amongst all players in yards from scrimmage. As you can see in his highlights reel posted above, Henderson has extreme big play ability but more importantly for the NFL, has the ability to change direction at a truly elite level. In his final season at Memphis, he recorded 53 broken tackles and gained 1,278 yards after contact which was best of all running backs in NCAA football. The guys from The Draft Network believe he has no significant red flags and his best trait is his elusiveness, which after watching his film, I agree with.

When it comes to running back prospects, we are really trying to forecast future usage. Most very good college running back prospects project similarly at the next level, it is just a matter of which team selects them and how much draft stock said team uses to acquire the player. There are loads of positive signals that suggest that Henderson will translate to the next level and that NFL teams will value him highly enough to be used right away. He fumbled only four times in his entire collegiate career and comes in with relatively low wear and tear, suffering only one minor knee injury in college and having rushed only 431 times at Memphis. Cover1.net projects him as a complementary runner but notes that “With his athleticism and home-run ability, he is going to be a great change of pace back for an offense.”

The fact that he had a breakout age of 20 years old is a fairly solid indicator. RotoExperts contributor Anthony Amico’s research has found that the younger the breakout age for running backs, the more likely they are to turn into fantasy football success stories in the NFL. There is some slight concern from NFL scouts about Darrell Henderson’s slighter frame but his NFL comps are generally successful. Tiki Barber, Ray Rice, Steve Slaton, Brian Westbrook, Phillip Lindsay, Charlie Garner, Dion Lewis, Warrick Dunn, and Brian Westbrook all fit the same size bill as Henderson (shorter than 5-10, less than 201 pounds) and had productive NFL careers.

Final Verdict: Darrell Henderson As A Prospect

So is Darrell Henderson from Memphis worthy of being the top running back in the 2019 NFL draft running back class? The answer is likely no; David Montgomery from Iowa State is a fearsome combination of size, production, breakout age, and projected draft equity  but for my money, Henderson looks like the next version of someone like David Johnson. A smaller school, smaller bodied prospect who broke out at a lower age, has exquisite production and is likely to not be selected until Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. A team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, or the Minnesota Vikings who need a running back capable of providing value on around 100 rushes and 60 targets would be a perfect spot for Henderson as a rookie.

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